Thursday, May 26, 2005

My Food Pyramid

Excel web sharing - spreadsheet collaboration over the Internet made easy with BadBlueI received startling news this week that an esteemed colleague had suffered a massive heart attack on Sunday. Only in his late forties, he'd apparently tip-toed on the precipice of eternity. The ICU nurses mentioned that when he'd arrived, it appeared to be a 90% chance-of-fatality case. The chaplain was called in, perhaps to counsel his wife. It was that dire.

He'd been camping and hiking on Saturday. He felt sufficiently lousy that by Sunday, he'd cut short his trip and headed home. In front of the computer on Sunday, relaxing, he suffered a massive heart-attack. When his wife called 9-1-1, apparently the paramedics were too busy watching Deadwood or were otherwise indisposed. Somehow, the gravity of the situation escaped them. So his wife gathered him up in the car and took him to a nearby hospital.

On two fronts, he was fortunate: his home is only a few miles away and the hospital in question is highly rated for cardiac care. He received, I think, a balloon and then a stent to open up the blockage and save his life.

I saw him today to bring him some mail and reading material. He is still in an ICU room, but is mobile. He's off most of the various tubes, contraptions and machines, and is talking about getting back home over the weekend. All in all, lucky and tough.

His episode reminded me of my Dad's heart attack nearly a decade ago. Put it this way, the heart history among the males in our family is decidedly lousy. For instance, my Dad's brother has survived a couple of heart attacks, the first in his forties. I found out recently that his son, my cousin, was also rushed to the hospital for an angioplasty. He's only in his mid-forties.

After my Dad's heart attack, which he thankfully survived, I completely changed my diet. My cholesterol was in the 220 range. Prior to that my weight was around 215. I was in the mode of heavy weightlifting and the commensurate mindset of carbo loading (described in excruciating detail in an earlier blog post).

I got my weight down to 178 while continuing to work out hard. A new diet was the key. Here's a pretty typical day:

Breakfast: All-bran mixed with Ka-shi Protein Crunch Cereal
Lunch: Can of chunk light tuna (hold the mercury, please!) in salt-free tomato sauce, heated up 90 seconds in microwave
Dinner: Salmon fillet served with sliced tomatos garnished with Tuscan seasoning (my wife brought this stuff back from Italy... delicioso, if that's Italian). Couple of apples or a pineapple for dessert.

Tangent: I was checking out of the grocery store the other day and through utter coincidence had only two items: an extra-large box of All-Bran and a giant package of toilet paper. Now that's a tad embarassing. Maybe I should have gone through the checkout twice to have avoided the stares. Nothing to see here, folks. Nothing at all.

A lot of my friends and colleagues do make fun of me for my odd diet.

Dessert? What's that? I haven't had a real dessert since my Dad's heart attack. Seriously. Actually, I have had one. We went on a cruise a while back. In the formal dining room, the Maitre'D ripped the menu out of my hands and said, "no, no... you don't eat from these desserts... I make you a special dessert." I guess he talked like Poppy on Seinfeld.

He brought us a bread pudding or something like that. My wife loved it. I forced myself to eat most of it. How could I refuse?

Everyone thinks I'm highly disciplined, but I'm not. The rich foods -- cookies, chocolates, pies, cakes -- don't appeal to me at all now. Maybe it's been so long that I've avoided them, that I no longer care.

Or, more likely, it's still this overriding fear of the family heart history. Every time I look at a piece of chocolate cake, I see the dripping, unprocessed fat... the ride to the emergency room... the Nurses holding me down while someone rubs the electric plates together and the surgeon yells "Clear!!". Yes, I'm a cheery dining partner.

If someone at the table gets served bread, I'll ask, "you do know that bread is the work of the devil?"

Or if someone asks me if I want some butter, I'll raise an eyebrow, "Butter? I didn't have an angiogram scheduled tomorrow..."

But now, after my colleague's episode, I'm really paranoid. I'm really going to watch what I eat now.

A bunch of us go to a fast-food restaurant from time to time. I used to order the Chicken Wrap, with no sauce and no cheese. Now I guess I'll order the Chicken Wrap, with no sauce, no cheese and no wrap.

Now my cholesterol is 170. My ratio is 2.5, which is in a very desirable range. I work out four to five times a week, twice on resistance training, twice on the heavy bag and floor-ceiling bag, with some elliptical training thrown on as an added bonus.

My food pyramid, above, breaks down the diet for you. Tomatos are the key, you see, as the lycopene keeps your body's resistance high. I don't know if anyone else could or would want to follow this diet. I do know that it seems to be working for me. Every time you see some sweets, just imagine a bug crawling inside it. Maybe that'll cut down on the chocoholism.

On a more serious note: One thing I have learned from these events... it's easy to overlook some chest pain and try to 'gut it out'. My Dad did it. My colleague did it. It almost cost both their lives. If you're at any risk whatsoever and encounter chest pain, get it checked out, fast. Your family and friends don't want to attend a funeral. They'd rather be visiting you as you recuperate in the hospital.


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